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10 Tips to Speak With More Confidence
Speaking well in front of groups can help you land your dream job, lead your team with less stress, and have greater influence. And anyone can get better at this—it doesn't take a certain title or degree. Here are 10 tips/reminders:
- Don't start your speech with your best, funniest material. The audience needs time to warm up to you and you to them. The rapport will happen, laughter and connection will follow. But at first you have to ease in, especially if you're not one of them.
- Do go out there with confidence. Those who begin with "I'm not much of a speaker" often leave their audience saying "He's right." Or "She's right." Let your audience enjoy themselves. Let them enjoy you.
- Unless it would be wildly out of place, smile more than you're used to. Audiences will often mirror your expressions and demeanor.
- Focus on your audience. This will help you forget yourself and take the edge off your nervousness. You're there to add value.
- Listen to your audience. During a speech, get your audience talking: first in pairs, then as a whole group. Ask about their ideas, experiences, or opinions. Your audience will love you for giving them a voice.
- Resist the temptation to overcrowd your presentation. In the words of Craig Valentine, "When you squeeze your information in, you squeeze your audience out." Better to give your audience some breathing room.
- Don't apologize for factors outside your control. Most audiences understand that life happens. Thank them for their patience and as best you can, move forward. Unless there's a gas leak. (This happened to me a couple of months ago while teaching. We all went home.)
- Do plan ahead. For example, if it's a job interview, bring extra copies of your resume—plus an extra pen. If you're using PowerPoint, email a copy of your presentation to yourself.
- Don't imagine you'll bring the whole house down—or that you're expected to. In the words of comedian Tim Hawkins, “I used to worry about the one guy who wasn’t laughing. Now my prayer is more for the one person who really needs to laugh. And if it’s just that one, then I’m good to go.”
- End a touch early. Even if you started late. Even if starting late was outside your control. No speaker was ever marked down for respecting the audience's time.
Most of these points can be adapted for other speaking situations—from radio/TV interviews to job interviews to running a meeting. And since most people are afraid of public speaking, taking these tips to heart will make you better and more confident, and help you stand out in the best sense of the word.
Don't start your speech with your best, funniest material. Your audience needs time to warm up to you.
— Gina DeLapa